One Week Till United MileagePlus Award Devaluation

Back in November United announced a huge award chart devaluation, which kicks in for bookings made on or after February 1, 2014.

Premium cabin Star Alliance awards are being hit the hardest, and in some cases the cost of premium cabin redemptions will increase ~100%. You can compare the old and new charts here:

Anyway, the key here is that bookings made through January 31, 2014 qualify for the old award rates, so in the next week you can book awards at the old rates through the end of the schedule.

I’ve written about the upcoming changes to the award chart quite extensively, but thought I’d highlight a few posts that are hopefully helpful with making last-minute bookings:

The single most common question I’ve been asked is what kind of changes to award tickets will be allowed on/after February 1.

To the best of my knowledge, if you just change the date or flight time you won’t be charged the difference in miles, but rather just the change fee.

Meanwhile if you change the routing, origin, destination, airline, or class of service, you’ll be charged at the new award rates, in addition to the change fee.

If you’re speculatively locking in a booking with the intent of changing the dates at a later time I’d highly recommend booking a routing that’s usually fairly available.

The last thing you want to do is lock in an award at the old rates for a product or routing that’s impossible to find space on, which would force you to either pay the redeposit fee to get the miles back or pay the new award costs.

Lastly, keep in mind that tickets are valid for one year from the date of issue, meaning all travel has to be complete within a year of the date the ticket is issued. Not just the outbound flight, but all segments.

If anyone has any questions, ask away below – I’m here to help! Happy redeeming!

Comments

  1. Thanks, lucky. If I have an award in first, but one of my segments is in business, can I upgrade to first if availability opens up later?

  2. Slightly off topic, but related…Is Lufthansa F space phantom availability still an issue on United’s website. It currently shows F award space for the flight I want, but ANA website is not showing space. Given that I’m a GM with United and the storms are causing long call center waits, I don’t really want to wait on hold if the availability isn’t real. Any recent experience with this?

  3. @gman & lucky — it sounds like gman’s ticket was priced at the first class points for a “mixed cabin” because first class was sold out on one of the legs where he has a connection. Like gman, I would hope that is not a reprice.

  4. If I’ve already completed the outbound of a roundtrip reservation but the return is after February 1st, I should still (as a 1K) be able to make fee-free changes without a reprice of the return right (if I wanted to change destination/stopover point/routing)?

    Or will UA consider them to be each one-ways, and reprice the return at half the roundtrip cost?

  5. If I only change the destination from EWR to JFK without altering the origin, date and airline, will that trigger a reprice in miles? Thanks

  6. Got my FRA-YVR booked thanks to the info from your multiple posts. Excited about the LH FCT duck hunt. Thanks Ben!

  7. I’m trying to use the “multiple destination” type on the award search to piece at least some of an award together. I used to be able to get it to go from the USA, to Europe, then Asia, then back to the USA, but it errors out each time. Any trips or recommendations? I know on the more complex itineraries we have to have an agent piece the rest together, but I can’t even get the search engine to show USA to Europe to Asia..

  8. Could not convice my wife to go to Bali and Taipei (she said we have been travelling too much to far Asia. Then we compromised :D.
    I have just burnt all my MileageMinuses, a SN and TK on our to the Middle East and LH on the way back.

    What would be the best uses of United miles after the devaluation? Sorry if you have explored that.

  9. @ Andrew — I suspect they’d be considered as one-ways and it would reprice if you change the routing. That’s an interesting situation, though.

  10. @ mileswhore — That’s not unusual, so once you find space on the individual segments you’re best off just calling United to ticket the award.

  11. @ PH — Post devaluation United metal awards actually don’t go up in price by that much. So Europe and Asia in United business class remain a decent deal. If you want to fly on Star Alliance carriers, the new rates to Asia via Europe are 150,000 miles in business class, which still isn’t bad.

  12. I’d suspect UA will be quite generous about this whole ‘re-pricing’ thing. My guess is that they are telling us now a routing change post Jan 31 will result in ‘re-pricing’ so that every members won’t just empty their MP account with random, speculative bookings. There will be plenty of people who have genuine reasons to change their awards who don’t have enough miles for the additional miles under the new award pricings. Since partner award space is beyond UA’s control, not sure if UA wants mass bad publicity…

  13. @NotBelieving-Reality Check: Many people are emptying their accounts with speculative bookings, especially Plats and 1Ks (no re-deposit fees). And I wouldn’t bank on UA being “generous” about anything.

  14. @lucky, help please – I’m trying to figure out if I’m reading this wrong. It seems that after the “devaluation” one would need less miles to redeem a star alliance award between “south asia” and “australia / new zealand”. I am almost certain I am reading this wrong… am I?

  15. Hi Lucky,

    So I booked a Star Alliance first class ticket in April (segments on Lufthansa, Thai + Air China), but the LH segment is obviously in Business for the moment.

    From your previous comments it seems like we don’t know if United will want to reprice the award if I try to change the LH segment to First once space opens up ~15 days out. Is that right?

    Thanks! Matt

  16. Do you have any experience with ANA availability going from ORD-NRT in late July?

    I know it’s the worst time to travel to Japan, but while I have some flexibility on exact dates, the general time frame is fixed. There’s nothing available now, but I have an inactive booking on a 777-300ER on hold for later use. I expect if it’s there, it’ll open up just days in advance like it has so far. I’m leaning toward hedging and booking a regular seat anyway so that if the availability doesn’t open up, I’ll still have a backup.

  17. @ Chris — Well of ANA’s US routes, I find they have the best award space to Chicago, especially now that they have a second frequency. If space opens, chances are it’ll be last minute, as ANA really holds back. It can be tough to find space in the summer months, but with a bit of flexibility it shouldn’t be impossible.

  18. What do you think will happen if you waitlist for a routing change pre-Feb 1, but it clears post Feb 1? For example, if I have AAA-BBB-CCC booked on a partner, and I waitlist for a direct routing AAA-CCC on United?

  19. There is no such rule and I previously waitlisted a domestic F segment where there was only saver Y available as part of a multi-leg journey that included 3 other partners.

  20. @ LJ — Well if you’re waitlisted then you should be fine at the old rates, even if it clears after February 1, per my interpretation.

  21. Im looking to book 2 seats direct CDG-ORD on UA F (777) on a specific day in August. Naturally it is not available.
    If it doesn’t become avail, i’d settle for J.
    If neither becomes avail, I would book F as a standard award.

    If i Book saver F for a random day and then J becomes avail (or book J and then F becomes avail) i believe I’d be stuck paying the additional miles. I would settle for CDG-MUC/FRA-ORD as well as long as the times are right (there is a connection through each that works on that day.
    What would be my best strategy booking something before the deval?

  22. How does this affect the valuation of UR points?

    Additionally, I’m looking for a card for general spending and I was considering the Club Card for its perks and 1.5 pts/$ reward rate, but after learning about this devaluation I’m reconsidering. Would you recommend banking with Amex MR or SPG instead?

  23. @ David — Well keep in mind the costs of redemptions on United metal aren’t going up by *that* much compared to partner redemptions. In your shoes I might speculatively book Chicago to Paris for another date in first or business class, and then if you’re a bit flexible on your actual dates just hope that the space opens up. That being said, in August that might be a real challenge, especially if your dates are fixed…

  24. @Lucky thanks… Yes the date is set in stone. I booked CDG-ORD just now for a date way out there… The date we need is not only on August but also a Monday… As of now it appears every seat in first is available… Do you think if i check twice a day everyday it will eventually open up?

  25. How much do you value Membership Rewards points vs SPG points? I like the perks associated with the Platinum Amex, so the annual fee doesn’t bother me too much, unlike the Premier Rewards Gold, whose bonus categories aren’t really worth much to me and so isn’t worth the annual fee without added perks. And SPG and MR points both accrue at 1pt/$ for general spending.

    I don’t really want to spread my spending over too many different programs because I feel like I’d be earning rewards slower that way.

  26. @ David — Maybe a couple of days before departure if you’re lucky, but I wouldn’t count on it. With only eight first class seats they’re not necessarily looking to make them available on awards, especially since you’re traveling on a Monday in August. I’d look at alternatives.

  27. @Lucky My options are “very” limited. I need to be in ORD by 2:30 pm. That puts me either on UA via CDG-ORD, CDG-MUC-ORD, or CDG-FRA-ORD. Or on AA CDG-ORD on a 763 in J.

    Obviously i prefer UA. Im hoping one of the 3 open up in F (CDG/FRA/MUC-ORD) on that day AND that UA lets me change without a reprice. Do you think im better off just booking the standard award or should i just do that as a last resort?

  28. Does the new award chart become effective on February 1st Eastern time, Central time (they are based in Chicago), or what? What time will it be in California (where I am) when the new chart goes into effect?

  29. @ David — Well standard awards only have close to last seat availability for select members, so unless you’re eligible I’d probably book a standard award to be on the safe side given your tight parameters. If a saver option opens up at a later date you can always switch to it, as United metal flights aren’t going up that much in price.

  30. @ Phil — Don’t think that has been officially announced, though I’d plan on Central time (so 10PM PT) just to be on the safe side.

  31. @Lucky I have the UA club Card which (i think) should give me expanded standard award availability…If i booked the standard now, wouldn’t UA be more reluctant to open the saver availability if 2 of the 8 seats have been booked already? If i book the standard and then saver opens up, that would be a reprice wouldnt it?

  32. @ David — Correct, but it seems like you don’t have much flexibility, so it depends how risk averse you are. You could risk it, book another date altogether, and hope to change to a saver seat. The downside is that there could be no standard space available anymore. Or you could book the standard award and be “safe,” but it would cost you quite a bit more.

    All depends on how risk averse you are…

  33. Lucky, is there any change coming to inter Asia bookings? Something like TPE to MNL to BKK to HKG? Thanks.

  34. @ mike — Yep, there are some substantial increases coming for intra-Asia travel as well. You’ll want to look at the award chart for the exact region to see how big the changes are. For example, roundtrip first class within South Asia goes from 60,000 to 80,000 miles.

  35. I have a trip IAD ISTANBUL in Oct

    showing 147,000. FC , If booked now will the rate stay the same or is it due to increase later

    Thanks again

  36. Do you expect schedule changes to be a loophole to get other desired flights/times? I’m speculatively booming a trip to SYD and AKL for NYE 2015, and I suspect numerous schedule changes between now and travel. I assume they’ll have to rebook to what I want (within reason) and manually hold the original pricing?

  37. @ Lyndon — To clarify, you’re talking this coming New Years Eve or next year? If the latter, tickets are only valid for one year from the date of issue, so there would be no way to keep pushing it out.

    If the former, yes, I suspect that’ll be a way to get around price changes.

  38. Trying to book RT on LH: LAX to BCN 7/30 – 8/13. I see that LH Business on the direct LAX>FRA is coming available consistently 6 months out minus 2 days for Mon – Thurs flights. Example: today space on both 747-8i became available in Bus for 7/22. Since I need 7/30, if what I’ve seen all month holds, that award won’t come up until 2/1. If I book the LH flight for 7/29 on 1/31 and then change on 2/1 to 7/30, this shouldn’t trigger a reprice right?

    Also I figure I’ll get screwed on my return, but I’ve noticed no availability for the LH Business FRA>LAX even though they still have the two 747-8i’s flying, why is LH stingy on that direction? Currently I have BCN>FRA>IAH>LAX, but would prefer more direct route and guaranteed new business seat.

    Thanks for your help.

  39. @ Danny — Correct, if you’re just changing dates and times, that shouldn’t trigger a reprice.

    Sadly don’t have any insight into Lufthansa’s inventory management. Agree that they’re totally irrational at times.

  40. Agree with Lucky here… if you’re speculatively booking or even tentatively thinking of a date…

    the best way of approaching this would be to pick the MOST DIRECT ROUTING one could get, going around in circles would definitely mean that one section of your flight will not be available when the time comes to change any dates

  41. @ Lucky – appreciate the posts you’ve put together helping us find best ways to use the miles.

    P.S. In case anyone wants to spend miles on ANA’s new “Square” first class, traveling from/to Chicago on NH011/NH012 is the only option – absolutely nothing from/to other destinations that fly new first class. Even with ORD, it’s just a few dates until September when it becomes a little better (3-4 days per month).

  42. Hi Lucky,

    Thanks for the information. I am currently a Premier Plat but will downgrade to premier gold after Jan 31. I was wondering if I booked a dummy flight before Feb 1, can I change the date, routing or even cancel the award flight without any fee? I presume the change of routing will incur the new mileage requirement.

  43. @ Tee — You can certainly change the date and routing without a fee (though you’re right that changing the routing would trigger the new pricing). You should be able to cancel without a fee as well, if the ticket was booked when you had Platinum status.

  44. Does United really charge for class of service changes? I’m trying to make a change today — I always thought if a segment opened space in J/F there would be no fee to move up (if I’m already on an F award)…am I mistaken?

  45. If were to book a LH one way now and do the cancel/rebook option, e.g. dfw-fra-nrt

    and then later add onto it nrt-xxx-usa on united metal to make it a roundtrip.. would we be able to keep the original pricing for the first half plus the new pricing for the 2nd half?

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